As a domestic abuse survivor, I was eager to read this book by Sarah Northwood. She’s Not Gone is more than a story about spousal abuse; it is also a story of survival, with a paranormal twist.
The Prologue gives no hint to the story that follows. In fact, I had to return to it after finishing the book to understand the point of including it. The meat of the story actually begins with the first chapter. Told from the point of view of the abused Katie, anyone who has been in an abusive relationship can instantly relate to her experiences. Her life is completely controlled by her live-in boyfriend, Daryl. He is a man who has obvious control issues. As with most abusers, Daryl presented a very different personality while he was courting Katie. Now they are living together, and his true colors are showing. Jealous, possessive, and abusive in all ways, he has trained Katie to behave as he wishes. The young woman walks a fine line, always fearful she will do something to displease Daryl. When Daryl’s dissatisfaction is incurred, he is quick to reach out with a cruel comment, a nasty word, or a physical attack to put Katie back where he wants her; under his thumb.
As Katie herself notes in the first chapter, “Things moved fast, some say too fast.” This gives the reader some insight into Katie’s personality. It is apparent she also has personal issues in her past that have set her up to be susceptible to Daryl’s false charms. There is a desperation about her, a need to be loved and cared for. Daryl is much like a monster on the hunt. He senses Katie’s weakness and moves in like a shark smelling blood in the water.
In her naiveté, Katie doesn’t see past the attention he pays her until it is too late and she is caught like a spider in his web. Even as his abuse escalates, she finds reasons to blame herself for his violence. Unwilling to share her dilemma with even her closest friend, Katie hides her bruises, pretends all is well, and tries to present a happy face to the world. There’s no question in the reader’s mind that her employer and friend, Jeannie, is suspicious of Daryl and suspects all is not as Katie would have her believe.
Daryl blames his jealousy and behavior on his previous girlfriend; a woman he claims left him for another man. Katie knows nothing else about the ex-girlfriend and like Daryl feels she is responsible for Daryl’s insecurity. If Daryl is insecure, it certainly doesn’t prevent him from cheating on Katie. Eventually, Katie discovers his infidelity. Coupled with a severe beating, she, at last, tells the secret of her dark relationship to Jeannie.
The sad thing about abusive relationships is the fact that most women will return to their abusers as many as seven times before finally making the break. Even when she is free, Katie believes she still loves Daryl. There is always an undertone of guilt and forgiveness in Katie’s musings. Northwood does an excellent job of describing this crucial stage of separation for the abused partner.
It is when Katie buys a used car that things in this book go somewhat off track. Let me say, I am not a fan of haunted vehicles. This section of the book is almost boilerplate. It is well written and would make an excellent stand-alone paranormal story. Its addition detracts somewhat from the focus of the earlier part of the story. What was a cautionary tale, even inspiring in places, the book becomes a ghost story. While it makes sense in many respects, the coincidences are a bit difficult to digest.
All in all, this is a good book. It is extremely insightful when relating the internal and external pain of being the abused partner in a violent relationship. The story does have a satisfying resolution. I recommend it to anyone who has experienced abuse or knows someone who has done so. The statistics tell us one in four women will have experienced some type of domestic violence in their lifetimes. This book can do a great deal to raise awareness of this troubling data.
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